Time capsule located more than 40 years later
Writer / Josh Brown
Photography / Josh Brown & Mitchell Jacki
It only took about four decades.
In 1976, the West Grove Elementary School students and teachers buried a time capsule in front of the school to be opened in the year 2000. Led by longtime Principal George Broyer, students created several papers, letters, drawings and even audio recordings of every student on the only audio cassette recorder in the school.
When 2000 came around, Broyer, West Grove Elementary principal for 32 years, tried to locate the time capsule but with no luck. Trees that were once there as a reference point had long been dug up and removed, making it virtually impossible to pinpoint the area that the time capsule was buried in.
“I made up a map of where the time capsule was referencing three birch trees, and I put three bricks on top of the spot where it was buried,” Broyer says. “But those trees died, and when we had them removed, the landscaping company tore out the bricks and stumps and resodded everything.”
Still, the memory of burying the time capsule never left Broyer and other West Grove alumni, including Center Grove Magazine Publisher Tom Britt. Britt had a dream that spurred memories of burying the time capsule as a child and wondered if it was ever searched for again. Britt’s interest led to a phone call with his old principal that quickly turned into a search party event for the lost time capsule.
On Nov. 6, 50 former West Grove students, teachers and other faculty gathered at Southland Community Church, which bought the former school in 2012, to search once again for their time capsule. The volunteer effort was led by Britt and aided by Mr. Broyer, Center Grove School Trustee Jack Russell, as well as help from the Center Grove Alumni & Friends. Hopes were high as the search was on.
A professional technician with Blood Hound Underground Utility Locators was hired for the day to help search for the time capsule with Ground Penetrating Radar — a device used to scan and map out the ground and pinpoint areas that might have an object underneath. Five hours and one failed digging attempt later, the buried treasure was found — close to where Broyer remembered it.
“I’m so happy that we were able to find it,” Broyer says. “Many of us thought we would never see that time capsule again. I’d been wondering for 17 years if we were ever going to find it.”
Russell, with the help of another West Grove alum, dug a hole nearly four feet deep before his shovel thudded against the old green trash bucket. The crowd that withstood a chilly day yelled with applause as the time capsule was finally unearthed.
“We are pretty excited to finally find this thing and get some closure,” Britt says. “The crowd brought a great atmosphere, and it was fun to catch up with some old classmates. Funny how we all remembered that trash can as being twice as big and half as deep in the ground.”
With the crowd anxious to see the contents, the time capsule was moved inside a room in the church. After more than 40 years, much of the contents, especially the papers, were wet, muddy and stuck together in one, big heap. Still, both audio cassette tapes, though wet and muddy, were in decent shape.
Britt has enlisted the help of the Indiana Historical Society to, hopefully, salvage the time capsule’s contents without causing any more damage than what was already sustained while underground all those years.
“We’re going to get the time capsule to an archivist and see if they can help us out,” Britt says. “We are hoping to see what kind of shape we can get the contents in. There may be some things that are salvageable. If we can get those audio tapes working, I will get those digitized and up online, but we aren’t sure yet if those are going to work either.”
West Grove alumni who are interested in getting back any of their salvageable contents from the time capsule, can visit atCenterGrove.com and fill out the West Grove Wrangler Alumni Form. Donations for the entire volunteer effort, including the locating, archiving and postage for any time capsule contents that are mailed, can also be made online by clicking the “donate” button above the alumni information form. Any surplus moneys will be donated to the Center Grove Education Foundation.
A reunion event is in the works to be held at Southland Community Church for anyone that was a student or faculty at West Grove Elementary on May 20, 1976. Britt and his video production crew captured many of the events on Facebook LIVE, which are archived on the Center Grove Magazine Facebook page. For more updates on the West Grove Time Capsule, “Like” the Center Grove Magazine Facebook page or follow us on Twitter at @atCenterGrove.